Evanston couple must give up Korean baby
- Evanston couple must give up Korean baby
By Lisa Black Tribune reporter
6:30 a.m. CST, March 5, 2013
An Evanston couple accused of circumventing South Korean adoption laws
have lost their bid to keep a 9-month-old girl whom they've raised
since shortly after her birth, with the baby scheduled to return to
her native country Wednesday, officials have confirmed.
Jinshil and Christopher Duquet have said they relied on bad legal
advice and thought they were participating in a lawful private
adoption of the baby, Sehwa, in June.
But when Jinshil Duquet initially tried to enter the U.S. with the
baby, authorities at O'Hare International Airport found she lacked the
required paperwork for an adoption. After that, South Korean and U.S.
officials intervened and fought in local and federal courts for the
"It looks like South Korea has prevailed," said Nancy Pender, a
spokeswoman for Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, the law firm representing
the South Korean government in the case.
She declined to provide details about what triggered the action or how
the baby's deportation will be handled. The Duquets had been pursuing
a private adoption through Cook County Circuit Court in proceedings
that are closed to the public. The court most recently heard the case
Thursday, Pender said.
The Duquets, through their lawyers, declined comment. The couple have
said that if they must give up the baby, they want their goodbyes to
"The case didn't work out, basically," said one of their lawyers,
Jamie Teich. "Our whole team of people here are saddened and
devastated by it."
Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice declined comment.
Sehwa will be placed with a South Korean family for adoption, as
opposed to an orphanage, Pender said.
The baby's birth mother and grandparents relinquished parental rights
to the Duquets and do not want the child back, officials agree. The
biological mother lives at a homeless shelter for unwed mothers and
already has another child, according to court testimony.
But South Korean officials say the Duquets skirted Korean laws by
failing to go through a licensed adoption agency. Jinshil Duquet, a
South Korea native who moved to the U.S. as a child, learned about the
baby through a pastor with ties to her family, she testified in court.
She contacted immigration lawyers in Chicago, who put her in touch
with a South Korean lawyer who said he could arrange for a private
adoption. The Duquets had earlier adopted an older daughter from South
Korea by going through an agency but were told they were too old under
South Korean law to follow the same procedures again.
The Duquets argued that, despite their mistakes, it was in Sehwa's
best interests to remain with them.
South Korea and other countries have tightened laws on foreign
adoptions in recent years to prevent trafficking and abuse, and the
South Korean government has provided new incentives for domestic
adoptions. Some experts say many South Korean children remain in
orphanages because of a cultural stigma against adoption and unwed
While Sehwa's situation "is tragic … it certainly points out to why
you follow the rules," said Susan Soonkeum Cox, spokeswoman for Holt
International Children's Services in Eugene, Ore., which arranges
She has just returned from South Korea, where the Duquets' case has
been covered extensively by news media.
"While people were sympathetic to everyone, within the adult adoptee
community, it was reinforced that you just can't willy-nilly get a
child," Cox said. "Children deserve to have the protection of
authorities and government."